Linda Poon is a staff writer at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
Meet the UPS driver who proves once and for all that mail carriers and dogs can live in harmony.
Postal workers and dogs have always had a… let’s call it special relationship. In the age-old comedy schtick, mail carriers are destined to be chased off the porch by their sworn enemies: menacing canines.
But take one look at Jason (Jay) Hardesty’s Instagram account and it’s clear that dogs can be a postman’s best friend, too. The 30-year-old UPS driver in New Orleans is the human behind #pupsofjay, a hashtag he created to document all the friendly furballs he meets through his day job. When writer Jami Attenberg this week tweeted photos of Hardesty posing with the various pups of her neighborhood, she unknowingly unleashed the kind of pure joy the internet had been itching for.
The Instagram photos capture Hardesty’s genuine affinity for dogs in Marigny and Bywater, two neighborhoods near French Quarter, in the heart of the city. He started working as a delivery guy when he was 18, so he’s well aware of the stereotypical relationship between dog and postman. “I would always just hear about [postal workers] running from dogs and being bit by dogs,” he tells CityLab. “All dogs are not bad like that, as you can tell, but it is good to proceed with caution.”
There is at least a little truth to the old cliché, though: The United States Postal Service counted 6,755 dog attacks on its employees in 2016, up more than 200 from the previous year. That’s partly thanks to the boom in online sales, which has doubled the volume of deliveries for USPS since 2009. UPS, meanwhile, records roughly 300 to 400 cases annually, according to the company’s spokesperson Dan McMackin, who adds that they conduct annual trainings with various vets, animal experts, and animal rights advocates. The key, he says, is to become familiar with clients’ pets before trying to interact with them.
Hardesty has served the same route for the last two years, so it’s safe to say he knows who the good doggos are. There’s the shih tzu named Stanley James Louis Preston, who’s royalty. (He was crowned the Krewe of Barkus King XXVII during this year’s Mardi Gras parade.) There’s aggressive smoochers like Ziggy, and big floofs like Morgan. There’s even a cat—though Hardesty adamantly denies being a cat person.
I mean, can you blame him?
Curious about the man behind the smiles, CityLab caught up with Hardesty while he was taking a short break from his deliveries. Below are the highlights of our conversation.
Are all the dogs you meet friendly?
My old route was in a part of town away from the city that had a lot of families. The dogs were a lot crazier [about] protecting the kids every time you knocked. Then they transferred me to a certain part of New Orleans, right next to the French Quarter. The dogs were a lot friendlier because there’s not really too many families around. [The residents] were more my age. So I started playing with them, and I came up with the idea of sharing photographs.
How many dogs would you say you see each day you’re on the job?
Oh, I would say probably between 30 and 50 a day. I knock on the door and I see them, but I don’t really play with all of them. A few pets here and a few pets there. I can’t really just sit and play with dogs all day ’cause I would get in trouble.
That’s a lot! Which ones make it to your Instagram?
The small, cute ones that won’t kill me.
Are you afraid of big dogs?
Not afraid of big dogs. It’s just less of a risk to play with the small pups that just really want to be pet behind the ears.
Come to think of it, I saw someone commented on one of your earlier photos that you used to be afraid of dogs. Is there any truth in that?
My sister mentioned that. I was never really afraid of dogs; it wasn’t that bad. [Laughs] Maybe when I was a kid, but not terrified.
Every pupper is unique in their own way. But who is especially memorable to you?
Two dogs: Their names are Oy and Annabelle. Oy all would always get excited every time I would come up to see him, but Annabelle would always be scared of me and shy. And so they actually moved away three weeks ago, but two days before they moved Annabelle actually started to let me play with her. So that was kind of cool.
Does it take time to warm up to the dogs?
I mean normally I am very cautious. When I pull up to a house I make sure I blow the horn, to see what kind of dog runs out. You can tell if it's friendly or not, or the owner will tell me. Like I said, I don’t really mess around too big dogs, just in case.
I don’t want my Instagram page to be known as the dog page. So I tried to do it only on Fridays, and I pick the cutest dog of the week. Well now there’s a waiting list of seven dogs that I have to post, but every Friday around 4, 5, or 6 [o’clock] I’ll post one.
Right, so if people go to your actual Instagram page, they’ll find really awesome photos of colorful houses.
I really just saw a bunch of tourists doing it. I had a good iPhone camera so I would try it. That’s basically how most houses are in the city. And I’m just in a really bright area that allows you to see that. So I have a good eye and take good pictures—on the clock and then when I’m off the clock, not working.
Will you keep #pupsofjay running?
There are a lot of renters in my area who are currently moving in and out. I won’t run out of dogs. There’s plenty out there to deal with.